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Learning the Ins-and-Outs of Learning Management Systems: Managing Your Management System

Author: Nicholas Jay Hoekstra

What is a Learning Management System?

A learning management system, or LMS, is a web-based software platform that provides an interactive online learning environment while helping automate the administration, organization, delivery, and reporting of educational content and learner outcomes. Some popular examples include Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle.

Even before the COVID19 pandemic, it was estimated that 99% of colleges and universities were already using some sort of LMS. According to an article by Rao, Torres, and Smith, the move to online learning forced many teachers to rapidly adopt LMS for their k-12 classes as well. It is worth our time, then, to explore how we can take best advantage of our LMS to support diverse learners. In a series of posts, we are going to explore varying aspects of LMS, starting with tips for managing the design of LMS.

Keep it consistent

The LMS can be a classroom, school, and library without any of the restrictions of walls and a ceiling. It might seem reasonable to fill the virtual space with as many resources as possible for your students; however, more is not always better, especially if students have to sort through several pages to find what they need.

This article by Rao and Tanners suggests that teachers used the LMS interface in a consistent manner and reserved specific sections of the system for different types of materials to minimize extraneous information. For example, Announcements and Assignments areas of the system provide students with information and resources needed to complete weekly assignments. To add further clarity, the authors suggest using a consistent naming convention for files that provides the dates for which an assignment corresponds. Clear and accessible organization is also highlighted in this previous study. This includes considering using Tables of Contents and appropriate heading levels to improve navigability.

Help keep students on track

LMS can offer great features that help keep students on track. This column discussing Universal Design for Learning provides a number of examples that support the principle of engagement. The built-in calendar feature of many systems can remind students of upcoming deadlines. Interviews with students in the study by Kumar and Wideman highlighted how being able to see the requirements of a course and plan how and when they would complete activities helped to reduce stress. Additionally, this gave students greater control over their own learning.

What other ways do you organize your Learning Management System?

What strategies do you use in your LMS to stay organized and keep students focused on the tasks at hand? We’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you mosey on over to the CIDDL Community and share your tips?